Considering Wilson or Sonus Faber floor standing over my Rockport monitors & Wisdom Sub

Hello All,

I have a pair of Rockport Mira Monitors with a Wisdom SCS subwoofer, driven by Audio Research tube amp and preamp.  I am considering a move to a floor standing speaker.  The Wilson Sophia 2 and the Sonus Faber Cremona M or Sonus Faber Olympica III all caught my eyes.

As it is, I am getting very good bass with the Wisdom SCS sub, and great sound from the Rockports.  What will a move to a similarly classed floor standing model over the monitors and sub give me?  I wonder at the ability of the monitors & sub compared to a singularly designed floor standing speaker.

My room is not dedicated, and the living room where the system is opens to the left to a dining area, and there is an open foyer behind the listening position.  The listening area itself affords about 9.5 feet between the speakers, and an equilateral triangle to the listening position.  The speakers are about 4 feet off the back wall.  The left speaker has the open dining room to the left.  The right speaker has about 3 feet to the right side wall.

My Rockports are relatively insensitive at 85db, so a move to an 89db or 90db speaker would be a welcomed one.

Do you think a floor standing speaker on this level (Sophia 2 / Cremona M / Olympica III) will be a dramatic improvement over what I have?

The details of my system can be seen here:

- Mark
Buy a full size Rockport much better than the ones you mentioned.
without a doubt a better floor standing speaker will improve upon what you have, even with a subwoofer, a monitor tends to couple with the room and sound smaller and less dramatic then a larger floor standing speaker.

Personally I think there are even better speakers out there for the same money then either the Wilsons of Sonus. It depends on budget and your musical taste. 
Whoa Mark, you are really all over the map here. In the last 5 days you have asked about changing your amplifier, and then phono stage to help try and solve a noise/gain issues. And now you're looking at changing speakers.

I think you would be best served to step back, take a breath, and address this whole thing more logically. I believe that on the one thread we seemed to narrow down the culprit to your Whest phono stage, correct?
I think the best thing to do is to send the Whest back to England for a thorough checkup. Maybe not what you want to hear, but then that is something we all have to consider when buying gear, the service aspect.

As for speakers, you are still all over the map. Wilson and Sonus Faber could hardly be more different from each other. Wilson is very resolving, while Sonus Faber is very musical.

When changing directions, it helps to know which direction you want to head in.
One does not simply say "I want to move, should I move west or east?".
You'll get more helpful advice if you choose the direction.
Say "I want to move west of Omaha, where would you recommend?".

It's understandable to be frustrated with your system when things are not sounding the way you would like them to. Patience will serve you well in the end though. Just buying a whole new system may not resolve your issues, especially if the root cause winds up being grounding issues.
Speaking of which, did you try lifting the ground on your Whest?

Listen to the Wilson speakers (both Sophia and Sasha) to get a better idea of their "sound". These are a natual sonic match for ARC gear.

I still remember hearing an ARC Ref5SE w/ ARC/Bryston power amps and Transparent cable systems. Very nice sound and presentation indeed!

Good observation!  But there is an explanation to my craziness.

The amp change option was simply a testament to my open mindedness at solving a problem.  In fact, I am very pleased to be keeping my ARC gear.  The search for the noise in my system was very educational.  I did try lifting the ground to no effect.  Dealing with Whest was great, the CEO contacted me personally and gave me a potential solution that will allow me to make an internal adjustment without sending to the UK for service.  I'll be working on that soon.

The noise issue is not related to speakers.  The noise search was simply to remove a small problem.  The monitors to floor standers is a potential movement towards a dramatic evolution in my system that I would like to try.  If it doesn't happen, no big deal, but the timing may be right as I see several wilsons available in my price range, and virtuality no used Rockports on the market may allow mine to sell well.

Having never owned them, I have long since desired a significant pair of floor standers in my system, and when I saw that I can make a relatively cash neutral move to a watt puppy 7, sophia II, I became curious.  I have always admired the beauty of the Cremona M and the newer incarnation, the Olympica III.

I do understand very well that these speakers are from two very different design philosophies, and that is the point of this thread.  As I am in the 2nd hand market, auditions are challenging.  Though my local Best Buy Magnolia has the SF  Olympica III hooked up to a 75 watt Mac tube amp, and I found a dealer with a used pair of watt puppy 7's not too far from me, so I will be able to listen to them both soon.

So, after this explanation, I would love to hear your thoughts on such a speaker change!


I would love to buy a larger Rockport, but alas, they are rare on the 2nd hand market and expensive!  My Mira Monitors may go up for sale, just in case you know anyone!

Audio Troy,

My musical taste is very eclectic.  Blues, Jazz, Vocal, Classic Rock, Contemporary Rock, Electronic, Hip Hop, Classical, Folk. I basically listen to about everything out there with the exception of contemporary mass market country, and heart throb teen pop.  Wilsons have a mystique of hard core quality and innovation that I have always admired. The fact that so many reviewers lose their minds over them, and how Audio Research uses them to evaluate their own gear has me thinking that it would be hard to go wrong with Wilsons.  My mother in law has a pair of Wilson's and a stack of Krell - imagine how well the first visit to her house went for me!  I love that woman!!  My budget is $6500 - $8000.  The SF speakers appeal to me in the way I am drawn to tube gear.  I like the idea of the lush musicality that people speak of and I love the design ( I am a very visual person).

But as of yet, I have not heard any floor standing wilsons or SF.  If you had to add one or two speakers in this price and class, what would you suggest?

Thanks !

Thank you for the explanation Mark. Good luck with the Whest, hopefully it is a easy fix that a simple phone call can resolve.

I understand your logic in thinking of moving from monitors to full range speakers. This would also seem to equate to doubling your amp power as most of the speakers you are looking at are more efficient than the Rockports.

Given your desire to stay with the ARC gear, I would recommend the Sonus Faber speakers, as I think you would get a more balanced sound. Your ARC gear tends to be very revealing, Wilson speakers also tend to be very revealing. That combo may work if you insert some warmer, musical cables/cords (like the Transparent that jafant mentions). However, I would think that the more musical sound of Sonus Faber speakers would mate nicely with the high resolution of the ARC electronics.

As always, YMMV. Happy Hunting!

While normally I'd agree with John on the descriptions of Wilson speakers as revealing, I don't believe that is as true with the Sophias that I have heard.  They are much more forgiving of upstream components than the usual Wilson speakers (especially the Watt Puppy 7s you are going to hear). 

Quite frankly, you can't go wrong with either of your choices, but I think you will lose a bit of the lowest bass you have in your current setup, since they don't have the bass extension of your subwoofer.  However, an advantage of the floorstanders will probably be better integration of the bass they do put out, as you don't have to dial in a subwoofer to the proper crossover frequency, phase, etc.  Listening to them both will probably let you know which speaker you prefer, but keep in mind that (1) the WP 7 you will listen to is a good deal more revealing and analytical than the Sophias and (2) it is likely that the SF speakers will not be optimally set up (I've never been a fan of the chain stores and their listening rooms).  Both work very well with the ARC amplification you have.  Good luck!

I don't think any speakers mentioned (Rockport, Wilson SF) are inherently designed for best performance with a tube amp.  Using a powered sub currently to offload work from the main amp and speakers is a good approach to address that on paper if done well.

If you move to floor standers with no subs, just make sure the speakers are a good fit to the room and the amp is capable of driving the speakers to the max.  With a tube amp that usually means higher efficiency and an easy load to drive as determined by independent measurements if possible, like those published by Stereophile for example.   Lots of users reporting success with their speakers and comparable tube amps is also good to know.   Most speaker makers will say their stuff is fine with tube amps so as not to loose potential customers and may well be but fine versus optimal is a big difference.

Indeed you are right about the setup in the Best Buy store.  I listened to the Sonus Faber Olympica III there today.  The room has a different system on each wall and too many speakers in the room overall.  But I have seen worse.  I had a little time gap between errands and meetings so I went in for a listen.  They sound good, but I would like a more critical listen with more time.  They are driving the speakers with a 400 watt solid state McIintosh amp.  Clearly this is nothing like my amp.  Is that going to throw me off quite a bit?  They do have a MC275 in the store, though it may be challenging to get them to hook it up to the speakers for some reason...
Having participated in a big Rockport room at CES once upon a time and having visited Rockport rooms other years, I can report they showed with tube electronics both times.  Now I don't know whether the Rockport dude is sweet on tubes but if he is he's got good reason to be IMHO.
I think I saw Rockport running tube amps at CAF a few years back as well, but they were very big, very esoteric and very expensive. I’m sure most anything would have sounded very good with those amps. The system seemed to perform very well by audiophile standards (big sound, uber detail) but not quite my cup of tea soundwise, a bit analytic sounding  . Pllus the speakers themselves were quite large floorstanders so quite possible a few tube watts went a good way there. Smaller monitors with smaller drivers and extended bass tend to not be very efficient or easy to drive and usually do best with high current SS. Of course YMMV.  You never know for sure what might float one's boat.
The system I participated in at the Tuscany include the Rockport Hyperion 500 lb each speakers power by two, count em, two Tenor tube amps each.  The reviewer from The Absolute Sound, Jonathan what's his name, Valin, declared that room the best sound at the show and the best sound he had ever heard anywhere.  Blush.
I think you will find that all Wilsons play well with tubes. Indeed I’ve owned 3 different sets (Sophia, WP7, Sasha and possibly soon to be Alexia) and have had them in house with a number of systems including all McIntosh tubes, all ARC tubes and tube pre and D’Agostino solid state stereo amp.
3 nearby dealers feature them mostly with tubes. Sophias are the easiest to drive. Sashas quite a bit harder and Alexias the toughest.
A number of members at Audio Aficionado who are also ARC fans use the Ref 75 or Ref 75 SE with 75 watts per channel and feel they need no more on either their Sophias, Watt Puppy/Sashas or Alexias. No doubt that is true for Sophias. I like the Watt Puppy/ Sashas and Alexias much better with the Ref 150 or 150 SE. Alexias are the only speakers in the Wilson line that are noticeably better (10 to 15 percent) with 250 watts (eg Ref 250 or 250 SE). The question then is---Is that percent worth doubling the cost of amplification?
I've listened to the SF Olympica iii's with a Halo A21 and also with mono Bel Canto M1000 class D amps.  Both amps are superb with these speakers. If you crave an emotional connection with the music the SF's deliver in spades.  In addition to sounding very nuanced, delicate, and finessed, they can deliver believable, tactile, full bodied, linear music at satisfying rock and roll levels as well.  Not to mention the gorgeous build quality....

thank you for the insight!  Do you feel the ARC VT100 mkII can handle the Watt Puppy 7?  I am considering the WP7 and the Sophia 2, but I am not interested in changing my amplifier.

if you were in my shoes, and considering the Sophia 2 and WP7, which would you choose for yourself with a VT100mkII?
I drove my watt puppy 7s for a few years with the McIntosh 2102 (100 wpc). I was very happy with that combo. So the answer is yes. Also, the WP 7s were easily my favorite WP. They were the first to be voiced musically. In fact, when the Sophias first came out, the WP 6 was being phased out and the dealer offered me a huge discount. I actually preferred the Sophias (with no discount) and purchased them instead. They were my first Wilsons.
When the WP 7 came out, it had the musicality of the Sophias but with greater depth, extension, imaging, texture, etc, etc. So I moved up from Sophia to WP 7. When the W 8 came out, I felt they lost a little of the 7s magic. Of course, others may feel differently and they would not be wrong. Also, SF makes great speakers on the opposite end of the musical spectrum from Wilson. You pick your flavor and go. 
I own the Sonus Faber Olympic II Speakers and like them very much.  They provide great musical sound and I highly recommend them.  I am using Hypex NCore NC400 Bridged Mono Block class D Power Amplifiers to drive these speakers.   The addition of these power amplifiers (no pre-amp) into my system provide more natural sound, clearer music, more bass, an overall lack of noise, excellent dynamics and musical details. Another layer of sound is also presented WITHOUT THE pre-amplifier in the system.   My Bricasti M1 DAC (with a volume control) is going direct into these power amplifiers.    

I compared them to the Sonus Faber Olympic III Speakers and decided there was too much bass in the Sonus Faber Olympic III Speakers for my space.  In addition, the Sonus Faber Olympic III Speakers were large and not a good fit for my living room (not a dedicated space).  The Sonus Faber Olympic III Speakers are excellent but my sense is they require a large space to really sound good (you need to verify this in your own space).

Speaker selection is not an easy process so I suggest you listen to the speakers you are interested in and not rush the process.  I suggest you listen to several songs from 3 of your favorite albums to help you decide.  Unfortunately, this might take several listening sessions since sometimes I really liked a speaker on one day and did not like it during other listening sessions.  The main point is you have to listen to music you are familiar to ensure you make the right decision.  Comments from Audiogon are interesting but you have to make your own decision based on your existing equipment, space and listening experiences.  Please let us know what you decide.

Hello everyone, thank you for the comments, please keep them coming! A couple of updates.  I think the Olympica III are out of my price range.  They are too new and the ones I saw used for $8k are slightly damaged, hence the lower price, but I have tightened my budget to about $6500 - $7500 and the Olympica III will not fit there.  However, the Cremona M is a possibility.

On the Wilson front, I spoke to a couple of dealers, and Wilson themselves about the WP7 & Sophia 2.  The 3 dealers and the manufacturer unanimously and independently thought that the WP7 is the better speaker, and the ARC VT100 mk II can drive both speakers without a problem.  One of the dealers has both the WP7 & the Sophia 2, so I will be listening to them both in the same space soon!

I haven't found a Cremona in the area to listen to yet.

My Rockports & Wisdom subwoofer are officially for sale!  They are on the market here on Audiogon.  I am not in a rush to sell, so we shall see how this all plays out.

I love resolution and detail, so I believe I will like the Wilsons.  Do you think there is another floor standing speaker in the $7k range that I should add to the list?
I'm just your basic music fan and not nearly as experienced as some of you guys. I appreciate all the knowledge you guys share. I recently listened to the Olympica III and Wilson Sabrina in the same half hour. The Sabrina sounded way better to my ears. I'm just a budding audiophile but that's the way I heard it.

If you really like what you’re hearing out of your Mira Monitors I’d hold out for a pair of used Miras. They do come up from time to time. The benefit is you’d preserve the sonic signature you already have but just add more scale,  And I’d keep your sub and just cross it over at a lower point, which I'd think would also allow you to use your amp to successfully drive the Miras. To me that’s the best of all worlds, but maybe that’s just me.  Best of luck.
Soix,  very good suggestion on the Mira.  I will conduct a search.  Though I have to sell the sub to be able to afford the change.  I made a deal with my wife!  Changing the gear is fine, but with a baby on the way, expensive audio purchases are not in the cards!
I saw your Rockports for sale. Good luck with your sale, the market is very tough out there for a sellers right now.
On the other hand, it's a great time to be a buyer, some ridiculous good prices out there on lots of items.
.......I had the Sonus Cremona M's ...sold them to buy the SF Olympics III's ......driver my an Esoteric A-03  - 50 watts of pure Class A power.....Cardas Clear Beyond speaker cables .....sweet , detailed and musical. I also listened to the Wilson's, Avalons, wanted the Wilson Benesch's Square 5's but couldn't make the deal. But now glad the SF III's worked out     

Like Bubba12, I was surprised at no mention of the Wilson Sabrina speakers. I have heard them for prolonged auditions on cheaper Constellation amps and the ARC Ref 75, which I use. They really did sound very good in both systems and they are small, room friendly and the cheapest Wilson Speakers, not cheap mind you.

The only drawback is they are very new and second hand examples will not be plentiful, though I have seen one pair on sale. As an aside, it never ceases to surprise me, that a new expensive piece of kit, would be sold at great loss, only a few months after buying them. Either a high grade box shuffler, or poor initial decision making.

I have Sasha  1.  Sometimes I long for a subwoofer.  If subwoofer well integrated to your monitors I doubt Sophia will give u similar bass extension. Good luck with your choices